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Dub McClish

The Writings Of Dub McClish
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The Cycle Of Apostasy—Then And Now

Jerry C. Brewer

Biblical history is a record of cyclical apostasy, a shaking out of the dross, and the salvation of a remnant. That was true of the Patriarchal Age, the Mosaic Age, and is being repeated in the present age. The cycle of apostasy never suddenly recurs, but is gradual and imperceptible to the spiritually numb who refuse to recognize its pattern.

The seeds of our current apostasy were planted more than a half century ago in hearts fitted for heresy. Their fruit is now being reaped in unscriptural teachings and practices among us. Much of the impetus for this are elderships in what may be considered “mainstream churches of Christ” who deny―or ignore―the reality of false teaching and its teachers.

The early decades of this century have seen a repetition of what occurred from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s in the church. Heresies of that era led to the emergence of the Disciples of Christ denomination and so-called “mainstream churches of Christ” are on the same course today; a course from which will gradually, and inexorably, emerge another denomination. This is nothing new. The same heresies that we face today were described by Robert Graham in 1869:

…there is among ourselves a falling off from the simplicity of the gospel, a conforming to the mode of other denominations, the loss of zeal for the spread of the gospel for fear people will think us solicitous only to build up a party, the decrease of Bible reading and study among us of late, the growing disposition to recognize the distinction of clergy and laity in our churches, and among much more that might be named, our conforming to the unscriptural phraseology of sects, to say nothing of our adopting many of their anti-scriptural customs. With the uniform experience of past ages before us, the tendency of men to make the gospel popular under the plea of extending its influence, and that, too, even at the cost of its purity and power to save, should make us keen to detect and fearless in our condemnation of all departures from the faith (“The Signs of The Times,” Apostolic Times, April 15, 1869, p. 4, cited by Earl Irvin West in The Search For the Ancient Order, Vol. 2, 1950, Religious Book Service, Indianapolis, p. 13)

When Graham’s analysis of the state of the church 149 years ago is compared to our situation in 2018, Solomon’s words come to mind: “The thing which hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Graham could well have described the current state of churches of Christ.

The following are examples of this, under the headings of “Apostasy Then” and “Apostasy Now.” These do not constitute an exhaustive list, but illustrate how “mainstream churches of Christ” in our own back yards have corrupted New Testament doctrine, and dot the landscape in ever increasing numbers.

Apostasy Then

“There is among ourselves a falling off from the simplicity of the gospel, …our conforming to the unscriptural phraseology of sects.” “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ”(2 Cor. 11:3). The gospel message is simple, revealing God’s mind in words which the Holy Spirit gave to inspired men (1 Cor. 2:1-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). It needs no additional language, nor can it be clearly expressed in a modern language of Ashdod. (“conforming to the phraseology of the sects”).

The phrase, “the language of Ashdod,” comes from Nehemiah’s reforms in Jerusalem after the Jews’ return from captivity. Nehemiah observed that many of the Jews had intermarried with heathen women who dwelt among them―one of the very things that led to their captivity more than a century before. “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab: And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people” (Neh. 13:23-24).

In every age, God’s people have had a unique language that was unlike those around them. The same is true in our day. When the language of the Christian is “half in the speech of Ashdod” (denominations), it indicates at least a tacit approval of, or alliance with, the denominational world. Peter enjoined, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). Words comprise language and have meaning―so much so that the Holy Spirit made a difference between plural and singular words (Gal. 3:16). Words also reveal the condition of a man’s heart. (Matt. 12:34-37).

Denominational terms are the modern language of Ashdod, revealing doctrinally corrupted hearts, as was Isaac Errett’s in 1863. West wrote,

…while in Detroit, Errett secured a name-plate to put over the office door. On it was engraved the words: ‘Rev. I. Errett.’ At this early stage in the restoration movement it was enough to shock the brotherhood, This was looked upon by many as a definite departure from apostolic principles, Neither Jesus nor His apostles, nor an evangelist in primitive times set himself aside by this ‘popish’ designation. The very fact that Errett selected such a designation as ‘Reverend’ indicated to many that he had a closer affinity to Rome than to ancient Jerusalem. (West, Ibid., p. 28).

Errett’s actions were the sum of Graham’s meaning of, “the growing disposition to recognize the distinction of clergy and laity, …our conforming to the unscriptural phraseology of sects, to say nothing of our adopting many of their anti-scriptural customs,” and what we mean by “the language of Ashdod.” The scheme of redemption, the church, its organization, work, and worship are simply expressed in the New Testament. But today’s “mainstream churches of Christ” have abandoned that simplicity for heretical practices, expressed in Ashdodic language.

Apostasy Now

The single mission of the church is to preach the gospel to save the lost. Jesus gave that mission in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16, and it was carried out by the first century church (Acts 8:4ff; 11:19-21). Now compare Jesus’ simple statement with an Ashdodic statement from the website of the church in Kingfisher, Okla. Under the heading of, Our Current Mission, the following is repeated, in varying terms, on dozens of websites of churches of Christ.

We strive to bring glory to God by equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God (Ephesians 4:12-13). Therefore, we believe we are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) (www.kingfishercoc.org).

This statement not only obfuscates the simple mission of the church, but also teaches false doctrine. The passage it cites (Eph. 4:12-13) has no reference to the work of the church. It refers to miraculous gifts bestowed by Christ after His ascension (Eph. 4:8), for the completion of divine revelation. There is no mention of, “equipping of the saints for the work of service” in Ephesians 4:12-13. It reads,

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

This passage describes the purpose and duration of miraculous gifts then extant (Eph. 4:8-11). Their purpose was to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry, and to edify the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). Their duration was, “till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man.” The word “till” expresses a point of termination. That point was the completion of divine revelation and a “perfect man” referred to “that which is perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10), or what Jude called, “…the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). “Equipping of the saints for the work of service” was never the mission of the church in the New Testament, and is certainly not, “Our Current Mission.” This is is an example of “a falling off from the simplicity of the gospel,” which can be simply stated as, “Our Current Mission is to preach the gospel to save the lost” (Mark 16:15-16).

Another example is the Second and Adams church in Elk City, Okla. Some years ago, that church mass mailed a brochure to city residents that was also filled with ambiguities of Ashdod. Written under the headings of Our Heritage, Our Building, Our Fellowship, Our Preachers, Our People, and Our Pastors, the brochure attempted to explain to visitors what to “expect when you honor us with a visit.” Under “Our Heritage,” they wrote,

We are a part of the Restoration Movement. Our desire is to restore the New Testament church in our day. We have studied hard to find out what the church was like in the beginning and to pattern ourselves after that. We believe this is the worthiest of goals. We want very much to be a Bible centered church. To us, the Bible is the sole authority in all religious matters. Our conclusions aren’t flawless. That is why we say ‘In essentials―unity. In opinions―liberty. In all things―love.’

The church Jesus built is not “part of the Restoration Movement,” nor is that its “heritage.” The Disciples of Christ and the Independent Christian Church denominations also claim they “are a part of the Restoration Movement.” Which “part” is Second and Adams? The church of Christ is the kingdom of God that springs from the seed of the kingdom, not a part of some “movement” (Luke 8:11). It is that spiritual body which Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16:18), for which He died (Acts 20:28), over which He is Head (Eph. 1:22-23), to which the obedient are added (Acts 2:47), and the body which He saves (Eph. 5:23).

The statement that, “Our desire is to restore the New Testament church in our day” implies that the church has not been restored. There is no need to restore what has been restored. Apparently this church finally caught up with Logan J. Fox and his skewed view of the church’s “heritage.” More than 50 years ago, he wrote,

The Church of Christ is a historical movement. It is one branch of the Restoration Movement, a nineteenth century reform movement in America associated largely with the names of Thomas and Alexander Campbell. The original movement was conceived as being a part of Protestantism and must be classed with other ‘free church’ movements. One branch of this movement likes to think of itself as being the main Campbellian stream while the others are ‘digressive.’ (Voices of Concern, “Destiny or Disease,” Mission Messenger, 1966, pp. 28,29).

When I discussed the brochure’s errors with one of their elders, he admitted more than he probably wanted to, saying, “It was for public relations.” Of the purpose of public relations, Wikipedia says, “The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders and ultimately persuade them to maintain a positive or favorable view about the organization.” Any church that relies on public relations to draw people has abandoned the gospel as God’s drawing power (John 6:44-45), described by Graham in 1869 as, “…the tendency of men to make the gospel popular under the plea of extending its influence.”

Another Elk City church that subscribes to Fox’s view is the Pioneer and Bell Church of Christ. Their website says, “The churches of Christ are the result of the Restoration Movements that took place in the 1800s here in the United States,” to which they subjoin the subjective statement that, “The New Testament is considered to be the pattern for the work and worship of the church in the twenty first century as it was for the first century” (www.thelordsway.com/pioneer). The church was established by Jesus Christ in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-47), not “here in the United States” Furthermore, the New Testament is “the pattern for the work and worship of the church in the twenty first century,” regardless of whether it is subjectively “considered to be” by men.

Apostasy Then

When he wrote, “… a conforming to the mode of other denominations,” Graham placed the word “other” in italics, emphasizing the attitude of those of whom he wrote. They considered the church a denomination and heretics―among whom Isaac Errett was prominent―wanted to be like the “others.

Errett moved to Detroit in 1863 to preach for a new congregation in which two liberal men, Colin Campbell and Richard Hawley, were chief. Of Errett’s work there, West wrote,

…while Errett was in Detroit, his liberal attitude appeared. Errett had been laying the ground-work for the one-man pastor system in the Millenial Harbinger. He carefully, however, avoided dissension. The articles were conducted in the form of a dialogue, with “Eusebius” suggesting the ideas Errett wanted to put across.

But, soon after taking up the work with the church in Detroit, Errett published what he called ‘A Synopsis of The Faith And Practice of The Church of Christ.’ The ‘Synopsis’ consisted of ten articles setting forth the faith and practice of the church, in addition to a series of by-laws, emphasizing the regulations of the order and business of the church. Most brethren felt that the ‘Synopsis’ amounted to a creed (The Search For the Ancient Order, 1950, Religious Book Service, Indianapolis, pp. 27, 28).

Apostasy Now

“… a conforming to the mode of other denominations.” What Errett and others did more than a century and a half ago continues to infest the church. Witness the various “creeds” posted on websites of churches of Christ, in the guise of “What We Believe.” Their number is legion across the land, but a small sampling of some in our state illustrates this: The Tamarack Road church, Altus, Okla.; the Adams Blvd. church, Bartlesville, Okla.; the Glenpool church, Glenpool, Okla; the Quail Springs church, Okla. City, Okla.; the Owasso church, Owasso, Okla,; and the Northridge church, Shawnee, Okla. All of these, except perhaps Quail Springs, would be considered “mainstream churches of Christ,” and all display creeds on their websites under such headings as, “What We Believe”, “Beliefs”, “Statements of Beliefs From The Elders”, or “Statement of Faith.”

A desire to “be like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:20) ruined Israel, and it will ultimately ruin “mainstream churches of Christ.” That mindset among us has been incubating for decades, as Logan Fox wrote in 1966:

By the mercy of God we are Christians, but we are Christians of a particular persuasion and a particular history. In other words, all our protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, we are a denomination (Emph. LJF). We should confess it and join all other denominational Christians in asking God’s forgiveness and his guidance (“Destiny Or Disease?”, Voices of Concern, Mission Messenger, St. Louis, 1966, ed. Robert Meyers).

“Mainstream churches of Christ” are the heirs and tools―or, as the Soviets termed Communist sympathizers, “Useful Idiots”―of Fox’s heresy, and are, ever so slowly, morphing into another denomination.

“… the loss of zeal for the spread of the gospel for fear people will think us solicitous only to build up a party”. A steady decline from simple gospel preaching in the last few decades has been replaced by a corresponding increase in “Marriage Seminars,” “Ladies’ Days,” “Financial Seminars,” “Preaching Conferences,” “Youth Rallies,” “Softball Leagues,” “Secret Sister Luncheons,” “Youth Retreats,” “Easter Egg Hunts,” “Men’s Prayer and Coffee” meetings, “Card Ministries,” “Trunk-or-Treat,” “Youth Retreats,” “Ladies Night of Fun,” “Wednesday Night Meals,” “Family Devos,” “Coffee Fellowship” at the building on Sunday morning, “Divorce Support Care,” “Women’s Ministries,” Fitness Ministry,” ad infintitum, ad nauseam.

Those “ministries”―all gleaned from websites and bulletins of churches of Christ, that consider themselves to be “mainstream”―indicate a closer affinity to the denominational world than “to ancient Jerusalem.” Thus, they can remain “active” while avoiding adverse reactions from “other” denominations who see gospel preaching as “too harsh”, “legalistic”, or an attempt to “build up a party.”

Historic precedent portends the emergence of another denomination from among “mainstream churches of Christ.” Recognize it or not, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for had they been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (1 John 2:19).

All that lacks for “mainstream churches of Christ” is to amalgamate with other denominations, like Rick Atchley’s, The Hills Church in Ft. Worth, and Max Lucado’s, Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, and launch a new denomination. That may not come within my lifetime, but it is inevitable as they continue down the slippery slope of compromise.

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